WESTMINSTER — No one said starting a new ministry would be easy.
But for Don and Judy Bixler, United States directors for the Sakhisizwe Christian Ministries, pursuing their dream of ministering to black South Africans is a step of faith they are willing to take each day.
"This is definitely something God worked out," Judy said of the fledgling ministry, which includes a multi-racial church in Kwazakheletownship and a school in Port Elizabeth. "We never could have done this through our own effort."
The couple, who returned in January 1991 from a year's work on the east cape of South Africa with Youth for Christ, embarked on this adventure in September when their former director contacted them about raising money for Sakhisizwe in the United States.
Sicelo Duze, a member of the Xhosa tribe, had resigned his position as YFC director for Port Elizabeth and joined with a white minister named Brian Bird to form the first interracial, multi-cultural congregation on the east coast of South Africa.
"Most white people would not support a black ministry due to the nature of their background as far as apartheid," Don said, explaining why Duze contacted them for financial support. "The majority of blacks have very little resources to support a church."
The fact that Bird's white congregation was willing to help him create a church in a township is also amazing, Don said. The 70-member group is about 70 percent black and 30 percent white.
"Less than 10 percent of the white populationin South Africa has ever been in a black township," he said. "They've been taught that blacks are all rapists and murderers."
The South African group then asked their Kwazakhele neighbors what they needed most.
"These people are very poor, have no municipal services and little food," Don said. "It was significant that the majority felt their greatest need was education for their children.
"For many years, this is something that has been denied to them, or they've gotten just enough to get along in the world."
Duze and Bird then created the Diakonos Trust, a subsidiary of Sakhisizwe, for the people's educational needs. After receiving the North End Grey High School -- an abandoned white-student school in Port Elizabeth -- from the government last February, Sakhisizwe began preparing its four-pronged program.
Now North End has become the Ethembeni -- or "place of hope" -- Enrichment Center and houses an academic center to help black high school seniors graduate, an arts center, a school for homeless streetchildren and a day-care center for black mothers who travel to the city to work every day.
At present, only the academic center and the school for homeless children are running, Don said.
In addition to soliciting money, Don also arranges for college-age and older missionaries to work with the non-denominational church and school. Sakhisizwe is looking for a secretary who could also teach computer programming to the students.
The Bixlers, who take no salary from the mission, are living off of personal funds. About $500 per month in donations from friends, family and acquaintances pays for supplies for the tiny office in their apartment on Main Street in Westminster.
"At this point, it's based on personal integrity," Judy said. "But I'm surprised that it has opened up as much as it has so far."